Author: Karen Bland



On November 30, four Executive MBA alumni and students—all leading Chief Financial Officers representing a variety of industries—gathered to discuss the challenges and ever-changing roles of CFOs.

Rebecca Boyer, of KellyMitchell Group, Charles Kim, of Commerce BancShares Inc., and Jim McCool, of Bunzl Distribution Co., discussed the influence, evolution, and expansion of the CFO role in a roundtable moderated by EMBA student Laura Carel, Manager of Complience at Emerson Automation Solutions.

Over the past decade, the role of CFO has extended well beyond the key functions of financial reporting, forecasting, auditing, and structure. CFOs are often the voice of the company within investor relations and communications to the board, as well as leaders of key strategic and operations initiatives. Despite the rapid rise of the CFO, studies show that less than 15% of CEOs moved into their role from CFO.

Jim, Rebecca, and Chuck each shared how their respective companies are shaping the role of CFO to meet today’s demands. They discussed ways they continue to evolve as professionals, including the development of soft skills, to prepare themselves for the next step. All three agreed that having a strong operations background (rather than purely financial) was a huge asset, providing a deep understanding of the business. Rebecca also emphasized the importance of strong communication skills in the role of CFO.

The next Olin roundtable event, a discussion on the role of operations executives, will take place on January 17, 2018. Check out Olin’s upcoming events for more.




The Executive MBA program’s Washington, DC, residency is a unique immersion experience into policy making, regulations, appropriation and budget processes, and legislative action—and how each impacts business.

Washington University’s exclusive relationships with the Brookings Institution, one of the world’s most respected and quoted think tanks, provides a level of access to legislators, administrators, and power brokers that is unique to our DC residency.

So naturally, when the Executive MBA program reintroduced “The Business of Policy” back into the curriculum last year, there was a lot of interest.

“When our alums learned about the new residency, we knew we had to give them a chance to experience this priceless opportunity,” says Meg Shuff, assistant dean of Executive MBA Admissions.

In October, alumni were invited to a mini-residency at Brookings, where they were literally rubbing elbows with key legislative decision makers and some of the leading scholars at Brookings who are working to solve important global issues—essentially, the primary players who keep the engine of our Nation’s capital running. It was a packed two days, with topics ranging from the vital relationship between business, government, and the regulatory process, to combating poverty and the role of media in public policy.

The mock residency sold out quickly, with 24 alumni from eight different cohorts across the country—traveling from St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver, Phoenix, Tampa, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. At the end of two action-packed days, the group had established high-level contacts with influencers in their respective industries, and felt confident in the science of policy entrepreneurship and the art of determining where, when, and how to advance their own interests.

“The Brookings experience was a fantastic way to learn about the intersection of business and policy, which complemented the education I gained at WashU during the EMBA program,” says Executive MBA alum Craig Armstrong, CEO at Loquient. “This residency is a true differentiator that really sets the WashU curriculum apart from the rest.”




Photo, above: George Paletta, Jason English, Eric Willis, Patrick Fairfield, Garrett Ray, Kyle Sheffler, Dan Cohen, Tim Sims, David Moons, and Nick Lane.

Those who play together, stay together—that is the motto of the ten golfers in EMBA 43 who managed to carve out a long weekend to break away for a golfing adventure.

EMBA 43 played 84 holes over three days, three courses, and even some unfavorable rain. From Westwood Country Club in St. Louis to Frenchlick Resort and Victoria National in Indiana, these EMBA alums made their annual golf outing a true masters event.

Similar to their Executive MBA days, the golfers broke into teams of five, as Team Captains Garret Ray and Kyle Sheffler drafted their picks. Perhaps the captains even used some learnings from Business Analytics and Decisions to choose their teammates, assessing their handicaps and the likely variances to occur in their favor.

When these EMBAs get together they are “back at Olin,” with good friends and challenging terrain—discussing everything from the physical obstacles on the course, to career challenges, life’s curve balls, and everything in between. The “play of the day” went to Dr. George Paletta, who climbed into water to rescue a stray shot. George’s team, led by Garrett, came home with the green jackets. The fun didn’t stop on the golf course, as the group was able to use their knowledge of probability and odds—maybe even some game theory—at the casino in the evening. It was reported that Jason English was the overall casino king, as well as the golfing champion—one might call him the Beta Gamma Sigma of the trip. This tight-knit group spent 20 months together in Olin’s Executive MBA program—but that wasn’t enough. They are already planning their 2018 trip!

Click on image to expand photo.




Food is big business, so the Executive MBA program hosted a delicious panel to discuss what’s “behind the counter” at four different quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) and fast casual establishments. Moderated by food blogger Lauren DeSantis-Then, the panel featured two Executive MBA alums, Toby Warticovschi (Lion’s Choice) and Eric Benting (Chick-Fil-A) along with BSBA alum Oliver Kremer (Dos Toros) and Gail Kitsis (Crazy Bowls & Wraps).

The panel brought very different perspectives to the discussion. EMBA alum Eric Benting owns a single Chick-Fil-A, which is the typical ownership within the company. His motivation to drive sales is the potential to be chosen to open a second store. Dos Toros, on the other hand, has opened 14 restaurants in the NYC area over 9 years, modeling them after a specific taqueria cuisine that the founding brothers grew up with in California. Their strategy is to build in highly dense areas (such as tall, crowded office buildings) and hit their numbers during lunch. As they expand to new markets, such as Chicago, they will focus on many units within a handful of key markets—all with a dense walking population.

The morning kicked off with talk about supply chain and operations. Consumers don’t usually think about the business of food with respect to inputs and how the food gets to the restaurants. Yet ordering, inputs, waste, and throughput are a large piece of the restaurant puzzle. Three of the panelists spoke about the challenges of being in a business that uses only fresh (not frozen) inputs, making them vulnerable to varying consumer demand and pricing fluctuations of ingredients such as broccoli and avocados. The conversation moved to how technology has played a role regarding waste in the “back of the house.” For example, Chick-Fil-A now uses iPads to direct those on the line on how many patties and nuggets to batter and fry at any given point, which prevents food from sitting for too long. It’s a balancing act between being prepared and ready, but not having food sitting out and awaiting purchase for more than 5 minutes.

Technology is a hot topic among the restaurant professionals. All spoke about the role of tech—both in the kitchen, as well as the consumer-facing technology, such as mobile apps, drive-thrus, and online ordering. Get it right, and customers will eat at your restaurants more often and with a higher ring. Get it wrong, and they may not come back. Today’s consumers (millennials especially) are “on the run” and looking for time-saving measures. Yet many of the restaurant owners and operators spoke to the fact that their food is meant to be consumed within minutes of it being prepared, which doesn’t lend itself to pre-ordering and/or delivery. Most of the speakers agreed they did not want to get into the business of delivering, so they outsource this component – yet then lose control of the final experience.

The morning flew by leaving the standing room-only audience hungry for more insights on the business of food.

Don’t miss the next Executive MBA event. Be sure to check out upcoming EMBA webinars, panels, and information sessions.




Photo, above: While Abby Kaeli maps a course for the EMBA 51 GO! Week scavenger hunt, her team members, Manoj Doddi Srinivas, Evan Schnur, Cody Hostuttler, and Alba Creales discuss strategy.

Executive MBA class 51 arrived at the Knight Center at WashU on Sunday, September 10, to kick off GO! Week, the first residency in the 20-month WashU EMBA journey. After checking in to their hotel rooms at the Knight Center, they gathered with Olin faculty and staff to begin the week.

The residency includes a heavy focus on team development, and the group of 44 students were assigned to their first team. Innovation, entrepreneurship, strategic management, and critical thinking are also major components of GO! Week. The residency includes lively debate, late nights, hard work, reflection, and some fun along the way, including a scavenger hunt and family night.

Team B (Laura Robbins, Kanda Arunachalam, Leah Ruder, Eric Goettelmann and Matt Broom) celebrates their arrival to the Whittemore House finish line for the scavenger hunt.

Close to 70% of the class is from the St. Louis area, with the rest commuting from Denver, Kansas City, Chicago and Southern Illinois, Indiana, and Arkansas. The program’s once-a-month format makes the commute possible from anywhere. Of interest, the 51st cohort includes a certified yoga instructor, a former NFL player, four doctors, and leaders from the U.S. Air Force, Army, and Navy.

From bankers to business owners, physicians to entrepreneurs, veterans to miners, the new EMBA class represents 37 different organizations, bringing multiple perspectives into the classroom for dynamic dialogue and discussion. 40% of the students are women. The average age of the entire cohort is 40, with an average of 15 years of work experience.

This 51st cohort of Olin’s Executive MBA program will navigate the areas of growth, global markets, innovation, and entrepreneurship. The program’s capstone course concludes with an innovation project that synthesizes knowledge from the entire curriculum.

Beyond GO! Week, the EMBA cohort will look forward to the Leadership Residency in St. Louis, The Business of Policy residency in Washington DC, and the International Residency in China before graduating April 30, 2019.

Welcome, EMBA 51—we are so glad to have you here at Olin!


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